Holbrooke wraps up deal on Kosovo but threat remains

ushing to meet a deadline set by NATO, the government outlined its plan Tuesday to comply with a deal to solve the Kosovo crisis while foreign powers took the first steps to put 2,000 monitors in place to prevent cheating.
Threatened by NATO airstrikes, Milosevic agreed Monday to withdraw special forces from Kosovo, begin peace negotiations with separatist ethnic Albanians and allow international observers into the troubled Serb province.
But several agreements to put the deal into force are still to be finalized, and it wasn’t clear when ethnic Albanians who have fled Yugoslav security forces might begin to return to their villages.
NATO officials said they hadn’t called off the airstrikes yet, and that they could still bomb any time after Friday, the deadline for Milosevic’s compliance.
If honored, the commitments should end a seven-month crackdown against Kosovo Albanian militants in the southern Serbian province that killed hundreds — most of them civilians — and left up to 300,000 displaced.
Holbrooke said the key to the accord was Milosevic’s decision to allow a 2,000-member “verification mission” and to permit aerial verification by non-combat aircraft that could begin as soon as the end of the week.
Despite the rush to implement the Kosovo accord, officials admitted Tuesday it could take weeks before the full complement of 2,000 international observers is on the ground to make sure Milosevic lives up to the agreement.
Political negotiations with the ethnic Albanians also will continue in Kosovo, led by Christopher Hill, the U.S. ambassador to Macedonia.